During Dutch Caribbean Shark Week that was scheduled from June 18th thru 26th, the entire Dutch Kingdom celebrated the beauty and importance of sharks. Throughout the week, various educational and interactive activities for all ages were organized, simultaneously in the Netherlands, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba, St. Eustatius, and St. Maarten. As the official Save Our Sharks ambassadors, Dutch comedian Jörgen Raymann, and Félipe Saelmans visited a multitude of events to help with raising publicity and collecting signatures for the Save Our Sharks petition.
To give Dutch Caribbean Shark Week an online identity, the hashtag #SharkStrong was created and used in all online communication on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. One of the most successful activities was the #SharkStrong photo challenge, for which numerous people took pictures with the specially designed visual representation of the hashtag, showing their support for shark conservation on the Dutch Caribbean islands, and in general.
To actually make a difference, people are asked to sign the petition for better protection of sharks in the waters of the Dutch Kingdom. Until present, 5000 signatures were collected and the number is still counting. As a way to gain more attention for the petition, a new animation was launched during Dutch Caribbean Shark Week asking support for the petition.
In the Netherlands, Dutch Caribbean Shark Week kicked off with a dedicated shark weekend in the Royal Burgers’ Zoo in Arnhem. For the children, an activities booklet was produced including a scavenger hunt and shark puzzles teaching children about the biology and threats to sharks. Ambassadors Jörgen Raymann and Félipe Saelmans attended the event to officially open the week in the Netherlands, and sign the Save Our Sharks petition. The entire weekend yielded over 1200 signatures.
The rest of the week included lectures, three nights of pub quizzes, the opening of a shark exhibit, a shark cocktail party, eggcase walks on the beach, a beer festival with shark beer, and a shark theme day in the Sea Life aquarium in Scheveningen.
From Monday 20th to Sunday the 26th, the #SharkStrong pop-up store opened in the Amsterdam Hallen, selling sustainably produced items with a shark and ray theme that were specifically designed for the store. The collection consisted of jewelry, bags, postcards, placemats, coffee mugs, and accessories. In addition to the designed products, a craft beer called Jaws2 was sold, which is a white IPA brewed on a houseboat in Groningen by Rockin’ Ludina brewery. Since the closing of the pop-up store, all remaining items can be purchased on the webshop on the Save Our Sharks website.
On Saba, the Saba Conservation Foundation celebrated Saba Shark Week with a barbecue hosted by the Ecolodge, as well as with a kickball tournament, a Yarari sanctuary trivia quiz, a color run, a game night at the Hideaway. For Shark Stanley, the kids learned about shark anatomy, finning, and the history of sharks, all whilst doing shark games and crafts. Every day, the SCF visited the schools to educate the children and each kid at the Sacred Heart School and PreSchool received a copy of the Adventures of Shark Stanley and Friends.
Furthermore, a Shark Stanley audiobook was created, and every night, the radio aired a reading of a children’s book starring sharks and rays.
In the week leading up to Dutch Caribbean Shark Week, Jillian Morris and Duncan Brake of the Sharks4Kids organization visited the schools of Statia to teach kids about shark biology and conservation. The kids seemed very interested to hear the stories of the Bahamian educators, and adults enjoyed it alike. The official Statia Shark Week kick-off took place on Father’s day with a Shark Splash Fun Day on the beach. On Wednesday, Jörgen Raymann visited the island and presented a well-attended trivia quiz. On Friday, it was shark movie night at the Superburger, and on Saturday, the week concluded with a grand Fin-ale with a roadblock at the Statia Day stage.
Because not all of Statia’s inhabitants actually get into the water to see what is out there, Stenapa created an aquarium within the library, so kids and adults could get acquainted with their coral reefs and its inhabitants.
Something that differentiated St. Maarten during Dutch Caribbean Shark Week was that it was one of the islands where they could actually do shark dives, resulting in some spectacular photos. The St. Maarten Nature Foundation started their Shark Week with an open house at the office, selling shark art, and informing visitors about their work in the Marine Park. At the Buccaneer beach bar, they hosted several nights with a movie screening, lectures, and a big party. Following their visit on Statia, the people from Sharks4Kids came to St. Maarten during St. Maarten Shark Week to teach high school children about the importance of sharks for their coral reefs.
On the Leeward Islands, Curacao Shark Week started with a social event at the Avila Hotel, where the director of Carmabi made a speech to kick off Shark Week and to address the situation of shark conservation on the island. Over the course of the week, there were several activities for kids in the Carmabi Visiting Center, and a #SharkStrong nature walk. A canoe tour was organized for Jörgen Raymann, and a group of journalists to show them the threatened mangroves of the islands, which serve as important nursery habitat for many large fishes. The popular singer Tio Ali produced a song called Konservá Tribon den Karibe, which he performed live during one of the kid’s events.
Listen to the song of Tio Ali here
Bonaire Shark Week, hosted by Stinapa Bonaire, commenced with a sailing competition, where people learned about sharks and conservation. The rest of the week was comprised of lectures about sharks, a trivia quiz at Little Havana, and on the Saturday of the final weekend, there was the Taste of Bonaire. This was the location of the Shark Art Extravaganza, an art contest for Bonairian people that made shark or ray art. An appointed jury chose winners from over a 100 submissions. And for the kids there were games, face painting, and information about the Save Our Sharks project. From Monday to Friday the team of Stinapa visited the Sentro di Bario’s and the Media Bus to teach children about the importance of shark conservation. Shortly after Shark Week, Stinapa Bonaire hosted the official Dutch premiere of Great White 3D, a documentary that particularly highlights some of the misconceptions associated with the danger and importance of sharks.